We were attracted by the itinerary which is a circumnavigation of Britain. Marco Polo offered this cruise this summer. She recently gained new owners. The formerly Filipino crew have been replaced by East Europeans with limited English and apparently little training. From the captain to the crew who swipe the cards when passengers disembark there is a culture of rudeness.
Our fellow diners spent the whole cruise trying to get plumbing fixed in their stateroom. When our bathroom flooded we knew it was "the physics of the ship" as described by the engineer. The ship listed in the swell and the shower tray could not drain. The short shower curtain allowed the shower water to fall into the bathroom instead of the shower tray. Out broken mirror door on the wardrobe had some sticking plaster - now curling - laid over the broken glass. Our wall lights on the wall facing the beds were different sizes. The one chair was stained. The stateroom was freezing throughout the cruise with a broken thermostat.
The spas on deck were empty. When the small pool was filled while in port it never looked clean or inviting. Part of the main entertainment deck was roped off during our cruise because boards had completely rotted away.
We never heard the Captain or saw him apart from his unsmiling and silent handshake at a predinner meeting. The crew took their lead from him. The male crew in particular were sullen and unfriendly. The weather was an important factor as rain was a possibility or likelihood nearly every day. The Captain had a role in telling passengers of changes to schedule, which happened because it was too windy - we think - to visit St Helier on jersey. We needed the Captain to give us weather forecasts, tell us what the itinerary was going to be for the day, the features coming up which we could look out for, and any other relevant news. There was nothing. The Meet-the-Captain event did not happen until five days into the cruise and Jersey was well behind us.
Dining was fine if you don't mind everyone having water poured over their menus and the tablecloth instead of into the glasses. Many nights the main course choice was pork chicken or fish. The food was not particularly tasty or imaginative. We concluded staff had been hired on the trawl through the Baltic en route to Tilbury and little training had occurred. It was several days before breakfast was organized and food available at the table such as juice or toast.In Belfast some additional crew were flown in from India who startled us by greeting passengers and efficiently and pleasantly meeting their dining needs. The contrast between the ethnicities of the crew and the levels of courtesy were dramatic. The waitress who poured water everywhere learned to hold the glasses to one side of the table during our cruise, and she was pleasant in her manner, unlike her male compatriots.
There was little interest in providing sufficient places to visit Giants Causeway in Ireland. My husband hired a coach himself for 22 otherwise disappointed passengers. A crew member who was part of the Marco Polo tour department boarded this coach as we waited to depart and in front of the passengers he advised our driver to take our money at the front door of the coach and immediately put us out through the rear door. Such is the ambiance and respect for passengers shown by male east European crew members. Our coach cost £30 without lunch, which we paid for separately. The Marco Polo coach cost £79.
On one excursion on Stornaway our coach set off knowing they were leaving four passengers behind who had failed to get places on the tender to shore. The coach full of passengers then had to wait while the late passengers were brought to the excursion destination. On another occasion we rose at 6.30am to be in the lounge at 8.30am and were kept there for an hour and a quarter before being called to the tender. It was like waiting to be called for a blood test in an NHS local hospital when time passes and the sense of passing time goes completely.
On board on a travel day many passengers slept after lunch in the public areas. Activities on offer included quiz games card games and Bingo. The small gym had a small number of old machines. For example there are three treadmills of which two were broken. Two children played on the others while I waited for one to become available. A walk was held on board each morning. A number of the passengers were a little unsteady on their feet so we did not join the morning walk as the deck was quite narrow.
The ship was freezing cold on cold days apart from the little card room and the little library. These were pleasant places. There were plenty of Scrabble games. The library lacked any newspapers even though we were in English-speaking ports on eight days. I saw one photocopy of one paper during the eleven days. A 'Britain Today' one sheet paper was produced but contained almost no news.
The evening entertainment was very good with vivacious performers giving their best. The lounge seats were comfortable, and the cruise director was very hardworking. There were very few lectures given The one we attended on Microbes was well-presented and interesting. More lectures from an additional lecturer would have been helpful. The cocktail hour entertainers included a Russian duo, a female pianist and violinist, and a male saxophonist. By day eleven we were very familiar with the Slav style somewhat mournful music from these entertainers. We longed for something lighter and more varied, western! Manhattan or Latin American style would be welcomed.
This sorry saga staying in a 'large' premium cabin cost one and a half times the price of a cruise on QM2.
At the final breakfast all eight people (crammed onto our tiny table with no space for passengers to move around) said never again would they cruise on the Marco Polo with Transocean Cruise Line. However the itinerary was terrific and we would highly recommend a circumnavigation of Britain. Learning more about our roots and seeing Britain from several different, offshore perspectives was memorable.